She plays by the rules . . .
Captain Ben Teague is many things: a tough soldier, a loyal friend, and a bona fide smart-ass. He doesn't have much tolerance for BS, which is why he's mad as hell when a trusted colleague and mentor is brought up on charges that can't possibly be true. He's even more frustrated with by-the-book lawyer Major Olivia Hale. But there's something simmering beneath her icy reserve-and Ben just can't resist turning up the heat . . .
. . . and he's determined to break them
The only thing riskier than mixing business with pleasure is enjoying it . . . and Olivia can't resist locking horns-and lips-with Ben. He's got more compassion in his little finger than any commander she's ever met, a fact that makes him a better leader than he realizes. But when the case that brought them together awakens demons from Olivia's past, she will have to choose between following orders-or her heart . . .
A shiny ‘by the book’ military lawyer and a captain who has no desire to command square off in this latest installment of the Coming Home Series. I met the two lead characters for this story in the previous series installment. Both caught my attention and I found the idea of a romance getting up between them a mighty entertaining prospect. It was definitely that- and then some- which I have come to expect from this author and her books. I never close one of her books feeling disappointment; only pleasure- sometimes bittersweet, but still pleasure. Jessica Scott isn’t afraid to show us some reals with our feels and I like that in a military romance.
The story opens shortly after the end of the last book (yes that’s a hint to read in order) when the battalion starts cleaning house. Several new command duos are given their chance to take over the reins and clean up their newly assigned companies. Captain Ben Teague is given Bandit Company and he has no desire to lead. Experience has taught him not to like what happens to people when they are given command and he feels that he will do an even worse job than anyone. It doesn’t help that they have been saddled with Major Olivia Hale, a lawyer on a crusade whose first mission is to go after a guy that Ben owes his life.
Olivia isn’t impressed with the smart butt captain who is reluctant to do his job and seems to just want to protect his buddies instead of those who are the true victims. Escoberra abused his child and she doesn’t care how many medals he won; she is getting him away from that family so they’ll be safe. There are so many other situations in these commands that need to be dealt with too and she plans to watch all these commanders like a hawk to make sure that justice is served. Captain Ben Teague draws her attention and keeps it with his casual regard for the rules and soft heart for his guys. It’s his heart and that darkness in his eyes hinting at past pain that stays her hand to show a bit of patience and maybe give him a chance. The Escoberra case eats at her though. Oh Ben might trust this one and she feels a little bad for the disillusionment that he’ll experience over it all, but she will do the right thing. She enjoys for the first time what it’s like to not always be alone, but she is terrified to take that final step of trust so she draws back at a crucial time and it causes a wedge of her own making between her and Ben.
Ben has earned a little trust from the buttoned up Olivia and he now has a really good First Sergeant. Wisecracking, good coffee, cookies, and conferring with Olivia get him through his days. He still has no desire to do what he is doing, but he slowly lets the weight of command settle on his shoulders. So much is a burden and he can’t fix it all, but he learns that he can make some situations a little better. At the end of the day, it is to Olivia that he turns. They start up something tentative and he knows she is holding back on sharing her past. He has a painful past too and he understands until she pulls back and puts up walls. He’s been down that road with someone before and this time he won’t be the guy standing there hurting and begging to be let in.
This story continues with a little of what was seen in Reza and Emily’s book though it shifts from the mental health issues of the battalion to its legal issues. There were so many situations that had no easy answers or reasons for existing. Ben is now learning the burdens of command and Olivia is learning that her view of the world is colored by her past and not everything is as cut and dry as she would like to make it.
Because of the character growth going on, the romance in this one takes a secondary part. The steady and gentle pacing was as engaging as a fast paced thriller. I liked being along for the interpersonal dealings during Ben and Olivia’s work days and I enjoyed their slow building relationship. Their relationship had to endure some hard stuff because of who they were at work when they had opposing viewpoints and ways of dealing with things. Truly, it was amazing how it all seemed to work though it shouldn’t have. It wasn’t all about the attraction and passion. Things were tough, but I loved how these were mature people who dealt with stuff even if it took a step-back moment once or twice. They got it right in the end.
The faith. The love. Ben shattered. In the darkness, in the center of her embrace, he lost a piece of himself he’d been clinging to. And found something new, something he hadn’t realized he’d lost so long ago. He held her there, whispering her name in the darkness. Loc. 4356 Ben Teague, It’s Always Been You
Ben shattered. In the darkness, in the center of her embrace, he lost a piece of himself he’d been clinging to.
And found something new, something he hadn’t realized he’d lost so long ago. He held her there, whispering her name in the darkness.
Loc. 4356 Ben Teague, It’s Always Been You
I really loved Reza and Emily from the last book so I was glad they had strong supporting roles in this one particularly Reza. He is there for these two and is so much more at peace and grounded. I certainly hope Ben’s new team leader, Soren, shows up some more. I enjoyed getting to know him a little.
All in all, it was another stellar installment in the series engaging me almost completely and I sure hope there is more to come. As I’ve said before, military romance lovers should definitely give this series a try.
My thanks to Forever and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review thoughts.
About Jessica Scott:
USA Today bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer; mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs; wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she’s a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well-adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.
She’s written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas.
She’s pursuing a PhD in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she’s been featured as one ofEsquire Magazine‘s Americans of the Year for 2012.